The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. This is not an NFL power ranking. We're not predicting wins and losses here. In fact, we don't care about such things. Instead, we're reviewing each team's projected fantasy contributions — that's it.
When head coach Pete Carroll and coordinator Jeremy Bates made the jump from USC to Seattle this offseason, the Seahawks immediately became the favorites to win the Pac-10. And when Golden Tate(notes) transferred from Notre Dame, the conference add—
The NFC West?
Oh. Hmm. Well, then this could be a rough year for Seattle.
Under Carroll and Bates, the Seahawks will install yet another new offense — nothing new for this franchise — and will likely normalize the run/pass mix. They led the NFL in pass attempts last season by a mile. (There's a stat that might win you a bar bet). No Seattle skill player currently ranks as an ideal starter in a 10-team fantasy league according to the collective wisdom of the Yahoo! analysts. Thus, it's tough to make an argument for placing the Seahawks outside the bottom-third in the Juggernaut Index.
The presumptive starter at quarterback is again Matt Hasselbeck(notes). He's entering the final year of his contract, and he'll turn 35 in September. At this point in his career, it's relatively safe to assume that Hasselbeck will give you a handful of useful weeks — he gets to face the Rams twice, don't forget, plus the Chiefs and Bucs — but he's unlikely to remain healthy for the full season. He's averaged just 12.3 games over the past four years. But if he remains upright and undamaged, he can easily outperform his rather harsh preseason rank (No. 25). Seattle spent its first draft pick, No. 6 overall, on Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung(notes). The 6-foot-6 rookie should improve an O-line that allowed 41 sacks in 2009, and that lost nine-time Pro Bowler Walter Jones(notes) to injured reserve (and later to retirement).
Behind Hasselbeck on the Seahawks' depth chart, we find one semi-ridiculous name (JP Losman(notes)) and one name that's of interest to dynasty owners: Charlie Whitehurst(notes). After acquiring Whitehurst via trade with San Diego in March, Seattle coaches expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for his skills and upside — as they should have, because he cost the team a 2011 third-round pick. Seattle gave Whitehurst a two-year, $8 million deal, fueling speculation that he would push Hasselbeck for the starting gig. But the OTA reports on Whitehurst weren't entirely encouraging; Hasselbeck isn't being seriously challenged at the moment.
The Seattle receiving corps isn't the league's most impressive unit, but it's not without talent. TJ Houshmandzadeh(notes) is a proven commodity, but he's headed into his age-33 season and he's coming off a disappointing 79-catch, 911-yard campaign. Housh complained about his workload to anyone who would listen last year, apparently unaware that he was actually targeted 135 times, the 12th highest total in the league. Tate, the rookie second-rounder, may have a higher fantasy ceiling than any wideout on this team. He was an impossible cover in college, he's transitioning from a pro-style offense, and he has reliable hands and respectable speed (4.42). He's a nice late-round fantasy selection. Deon Butler(notes), Deion Branch(notes) and Ben Obomanu(notes) figure to fill out the depth chart.
Back in May, Hasselbeck referred to tight end John Carlson(notes) as "this year's fantasy sleeper," and I'm fully prepared to agree. Carlson led the Seahawks in every significant receiving category as a rookie in 2008, and he led the team in receiving touchdowns last season. This year, he's likely to spend less time as an in-line blocker. The set-up is favorable, and his quarterback is clearly fond of him. Tight end is a loaded position in fantasy drafts; if you miss out on the top tier, just wait until the late rounds and grab Carlson.
Seattle's running back situation appeared to be a fantasy minefield, until LenDale White(notes) was released. (The NFL needs to simply intervene and assign White to the Bengals, post-suspension. It's an obvious pairing. Like Riesling with Gouda). The path for Justin Forsett(notes) now seems less cluttered. In 2009, Forsett emerged as a must-start back when Julius Jones(notes) was unavailable — check the game log, Weeks 10-12. He may not have ideal size (5-foot-8, 194), but Forsett is a playmaker. Jones, as we've learned over multiple seasons, is not.
Leon Washington(notes) is still recovering from an ugly leg fracture, suffered in Week 7 last season. You can expect positive mid-summer propaganda, but we won't be able to accurately judge Washington's recovery until we see him in preseason action — and even then, we'll need to consider the quality of the opposition. Washington was sensational before the injury; if he recovers fully, perhaps by mid-season, he'll be a serious weapon for Seattle.
The Seahawks defense lost a few familiar names (Darryl Tapp(notes), Deon Grant(notes), Patrick Kerney(notes)), but the team drafted an IDP of interest in safety Earl Thomas(notes). Seattle's linebacking corps is full of solid brand names — Lofa Tatupu(notes), Leroy Hill(notes), Aaron Curry(notes) — but none of them managed to play all 16 games last season. Still, they're on the draft board in IDP formats, as is safety Jordan Babineaux(notes) (104 tackles in '09).
If you'd like to quarrel with this overall ranking, here's your chance. Please also share your favorite Dave Krieg memory in comments. He's the pride of Milton College, or so we've heard.
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